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March 26, 2019

Jim Furyk

Austin, Texas

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Jim Furyk into the interview room, here at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Jim, welcome back. Welcome to Austin, I should say. Your 18th start at this event, but first here at Austin Country Club, correct?

JIM FURYK: Second.

JOHN BUSH: Welcome back. Coming in on fine form. If we could get some comments on your play.

JIM FURYK: Felt really good about my game. Worked really hard this off-season, as we've talked about before. I started getting my health back last fall. I had a good event at Mayakoba. It kind of gave me some inspiration to work on my game this winter and get ready, and really felt pretty good about my game so far.

Hit the ground running at Pebble Beach, finishing 14th. Didn't have a great putting week at LA, but saw a lot of good things in my game. And changed my putting style a little bit at the Honda with the arm lock, and got some help there from Odyssey and the Callaway rep, and help from Webb Simpson. And was able to carry that over.

So the good finish at Honda got me in THE PLAYERS, and good finish at PLAYERS, got me in this event. So it's kind of a little eye-opening for me, but also some great opportunities. And really didn't know the finish at Honda was going to get me in THE PLAYERS, and I honestly had no idea that that finish at THE PLAYERS could move me that high up in the World Rankings.

So it's kind of what I have right now is a season of opportunities, and hopefully we'll play some events that I wasn't expecting to.

Q. You talked about your health, how much does that factor in versus motivation? You talked about getting some inspiration during this winter, was it health or inspiration or a combination of the two?
JIM FURYK: Oh, I think that I'm a competitive person, so the idea of just showing up and going through the motions was never really part of it. I think the Ryder Cup definitely for 18 months definitely took some time out of my schedule, but it really did hit me at a good point in that I wasn't -- I just wasn't that healthy. I played in pain, soreness. "Pain" is a bad word; I played with a lot of soreness through a lot of summer of '17, after the U.S. Open, through much of '18, a lot of soreness. And I wasn't generating -- I wasn't able to play the last few months of '17, a couple -- the first couple months of '18, really wasn't able to play much golf, practice. I got no work in in the off-season. And was really struggling with another possible surgery, and being out for a long time.

I'd say the health played the biggest factor into it. It's a little tougher to have that inspiration knowing you're playing the best players in the world and you're going out at 80 percent. It's difficult to compete that way.

My mind and my focus was really on leading the Ryder Cup team. And going into that event. That's no excuse for the way I played. If you're going to say motivation or inspiration versus health, I wasn't very healthy, and so I didn't give myself really the best opportunity there to compete and play as well as I wanted to.

Q. You said a "season of opportunities" is what you called this. When did the Masters get on your radar? Do you have any idea what you need to do this week to get inside that top 50?
JIM FURYK: No, I'd have to make it out of my pool, I think for sure. Past that I'm not really sure. And I think it's been written up in articles on exactly what they thought might have to happen. It probably has a lot to do with -- I think there's a few of us in the same boat. There's a couple of guys in the high 40s that are qualified for the Masters, and a few of us in the low to mid 50s. It will probably depend on how those folks play, as well.

I try not to focus on what I have to do to make the Masters. I know that I have to play well. I know that my pool is very difficult, when you look at the three guys in it, Jason Day, Mickelson and Henrik Stenson, friendly with all three of those folks, I know how talented they are, and how many championships they've won. It will be difficult to get through that pool and my focus is really on playing well and my game and doing what I can do, what I can control.

Q. Before you played your way into this, how were you originally expecting to can spend to week?
JIM FURYK: I guess at home. I knew I was going to play last week at the Valspar. I guess I was expecting to be at home. The kids' schedules are pretty light this week. I don't think my daughter has a track meet tomorrow. Past that, my son has no lacrosse games. Probably grilling out, drinking a few beers and spending my afternoons kind of preparing.

Q. How do you feel about being one of four people who were at the first one? You and Phil and Tiger and who am I missing?
JIM FURYK: The first Match Play?

Q. In '99 at La Costa.
JIM FURYK: I didn't realize I was -- that was the first Match Play?

Q. Maggert over Magee.
JIM FURYK: I feel like my first Match Play like we used to give the Player of the Year Award at the Match Play event. I want to feel like my first one Tom Lehman received Player of the Year. Would he have been Player of the Year for '98.

Q. '96 and there wasn't Match Play back then.
JIM FURYK: So the event was still at La Costa.

Q. It was the Tournament of Champions. That was at Kapalua. That's what you're mixing it up.
JIM FURYK: I'm mixing it up. I'm mixing up the venue.

Q. One thing, you're losing your memory.
JIM FURYK: It happens. I don't have all those stat pages in front of me, though.

Yeah, so me, Tiger, Phil and --

Q. And Lee Westwood. How does that make you feel?
JIM FURYK: I guess I'm probably the oldest of the four, damn it, so -- yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm the oldest of the four.

No, I think I'm proud of the longevity that I've had. Obviously the last couple of years have been a little thin. The last few years have been a little thin, so disappointed in that. So I guess I'm proud of the longevity, the consistency and the number about of times I've been invited to play this event. It's been fun.

Q. Do you think we could see a case where that happens 20 years from now because of the fact that a lot of these kids are training for this probably a lot younger and singularly more focused than you guys did, but also the money? Can you see a case where there is so much money out there that it's harder to keep your motivation? For others, not for yourself.
JIM FURYK: Yeah, I think that to each their own in that situation. You look at the greatest players of our time and Tiger and Phil, I haven't seen their bank account but I'm guessing they probably don't have to play anymore, probably feel pretty comfortable with how they're doing financially, but the motivation to play. Phil talks about it all the time, and he's excited. He's trying to squeeze as much as he can out of the next however many years he's got. Tiger is competitive and, health willing, he seems to be want to be out here competing again.

So I think a lot of it has to do with motivation. And the kids coming out today are probably starting at a little bit younger age by average, but they're coming out probably more fit, more fitness, and injury prevention than my group was. A lot of it is going to do with motivation. And I look at the guys ahead of me that played well late in their career, like Ray Floyd, when I was younger, won both tours at the age of 50. Kenny Perry had a resurgence in his late 40s, and was a dominant force on the Tour, and his best years on Tour were in his late 40s, where we played on President Cups and Ryder Cup teams together, and he was sometimes our best player on those teams.

Freddie Funk, you think of guys that maybe stand the test of time as guys that maybe have some power, like Vijay Singh, Davis Love, that have played well late in their careers. Here's a guy in Freddie Funk, one of the shortest guys on the Tour, and made the Presidents Cup team at the age of 49. So a lot of is your motivation and your will and how much work you're willing to put into it and work that you're willing to put into it that keeps you competitive.

Q. You mentioned Tiger and Tiger -- he obviously was the great intimidator back in his glory years. Do you see a more relaxed, easy-going Tiger and maybe playing with less of an edge than he did, because he's playing with a lot of guys that didn't play with him?
JIM FURYK: I wish you had to play him, I'll tell you that. No, I think you've probably seen -- to say that he's relaxed and maybe more approachable, maybe more humble. I think you could use all those words. But as far as like lost an edge or competitiveness, I sure wish you had to play him, instead of me.

No, I think he's probably, if you want to use the word "competitive" of our generation, absolutely, the most competitive guy that I've ever played against. So, no, I just think maybe as we all grow older and put things into perspective more and other parts of our life become more are important, you realize what's important, we probably all just mature a little bit, and I think he seems happy. He seems at peace, which is good.

Q. Can you recall any interesting moments of gamesmanship in this event, in Match Play? You don't have to name a player, but any tactics you've had a chuckle at or noted from a competitor?
JIM FURYK: Not really, no. I can't think of anything off the top of my head at this event. I've probably seen some things at match play events, like Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup in the past, but, no, I think for the most part unless you have two guys that really just don't like each other for one reason or another, I don't think you're going to see too much happening in this event from a gamesmanship standpoint. I think really giving putts is probably, you know -- guys walking up and saying "good, good," and trying to, you know, maybe giving you some putts early or not giving you a putt late, something like that.

But I've never felt like I've seen much of that.

Q. We always hear on the broadcast they'll say, he's giving putts early, and a player doesn't give putts late. Is that something that really you see going on? Do you have a strategy on that or is it just kind of case by case?
JIM FURYK: I don't think it's case by case. I think you -- there's always like that one area where -- it's a tap-in, that's good. It's four feet, that's definitely not good. There's always that middle ground area. And I think if a guy -- if a guy misses a putt early you're obviously going to make him putt it, and think about it and hit some more. But I would expect the same if I miss a two and a half footer early in my round, I pretty much know I'm hitting those the rest of the day and get ready for it.

Q. Speaking of Tiger, a lot of players have taken runs at No. 1 or but no one it seems has come close to his consistency. What was the key contributing factor, do you think in Tiger being able to be so good consistently for so long?
JIM FURYK: I guess I sure wish we all knew what the answer to that was. I think what's amazing right now is the depth that we have on the Tour and the talent pool, and someone asked me last week about No. 1's in the world, I was like there's five or six guys that have been No. 1 just recently. I ripped off five in a row, there might be six guys, there might be more, to be honest with you. It's real easy to figure out who those guys are. And I think that's -- it's actually great for our sport. It's great for our Tour. And it brings a lot of interest.

Having a dominant player like a Greg Norman, Like when I first came out on Tour he was pretty dominant, and Tiger filled that role is also good, as well. I guess there was really no flaws, no weaknesses. Our only chance was if he missed a couple fairways once in a while, but if he was driving the ball great, and he was the best iron player I've ever seen, he had a great short game, he's the best clutch putter I've ever seen. When he got a lead, he'd hit 3-wood, 2-iron, and never missed a fairway. And you had to try to beat him with the irons, which was almost impossible. And he had more experience with all those wins. So he was a difficult guy to chase down. I've been in that position a number of times. And then obviously didn't win very many, if any.

So I guess really there was no flaw, no weakness and mentally very tough.

Q. Do you have a preference over what you have now with group play for the first three days of this event versus straight knock out play the way it used to be in Hawaii?
JIM FURYK: I guess I like the group play and probably because -- I guess for two reasons. One, I hate to see a guy fly halfway around the world and play a good solid round of golf and fly halfway around the world to get home. It's kind of the beauty and the bad part of match play is you can shoot 66 and lose and shoot 74 and win, if that makes any sense. So I kind of don't like to see that part of it. I don't have to fly halfway around the world, because it's usually in the States. But the other side would be I probably benefited from that at Harding Park. I had a day I lost the match, I was able to still get through my pool with a 2-1 record. And then on top of that I got to the semifinals where I almost won a semifinal match, as well, to get it to the finals. I probably benefited from that idea, you can have a slip up, still have a great week. I played super that week, but had one round where I didn't particularly play that well, and still was able to turn it into a 4th place finish. I guess from that standpoint there's always that -- probably not expecting that opportunity this week, with the group I'm in, no chance for slip ups. But I like the idea for being here for three days.

Q. Europeans have won the last three events on the Tour and seemed to have done okay in Ryder Cup play. Any factors going on there, why they're playing so well now?
JIM FURYK: I think there's an ebb and flow to everything. But you look at Paul Casey, McIlroy, so we're down with the British Open champ, possibly, if not, one of the most talented players in the world in Paul Casey, back-to-back winner of Valspar and I think he's the top-16. He's in that first pool of players this week, just great players.

And you look at our Ryder Cup teams the last couple of times, the World Rankings are very similar for the top-12 in Europe versus the top-12 in the U.S. The top-20 in the world the last few years has been dominated by American and European players, and it's been pretty even. The top-20 you'll get like nine guys from Europe and eight from the U.S. or vice versa. And it just -- there's a lot of good players from that area and they're playing well right now.

Q. Your thoughts on facing Jason and Phil and Henrik, obviously it's one of the tougher matches, tougher groups out here?
JIM FURYK: I guess I'm excited for the opportunity but I also realize how good each and every one of those players are. I'm very friendly with all three. Jason has won major championships, Phil has obviously won a bunch, and I've played against him for my entire career, since we were kids, I met him at 16. Henrik is a fun guy. He loves to bust by chops and give me a hard time. He's a funny person. I enjoy his company, and obviously respect his game, he's a great ball-striker, when he's on he's very difficult to beat. So I guess it really doesn't matter who you're playing against in the long run, there's 64 guys here who are all very talented and all very capable of beating each other, but I looked at the pool, it looks like we have an exciting group.

And again, I really can only worry about what I can control and that's my game and my style and how I play. So I kind of -- it's a short week for us, coming off of Valspar and trying to prepare two days is a little different than usual. So I'll try to kind of get mentally ready Sunday night for what I'm going to do for two days what I wanted to accomplish Monday and Tuesday, and how I was going to get ready to play tomorrow. I've got kind of some goals for today and what I want to accomplish and get ready. And I can really only control me and how I play, that's the only thing I can affect so that's what I worry about.

Q. Since you have such a clear memory of being 16 the first time you met or competed against Phil, is there a good story about that memory? And if there's not, can you make one up?
JIM FURYK: We've played against each other for a long time. When we were juniors, he was the dominant player, the guy to beat in the country. Everyone knew who Phil Mickelson was. He was kind of goofy. I remember some really bright colored slacks, some striped shirts. I didn't quite understand Phil, maybe understand his genius very well, like most folks do or didn't at the time. But I always -- I enjoyed playing with him and enjoyed playing against the best junior. We went to college and he was the best amateur in the game. He was the best college player in the game and he was the one that's the bar you compared yourself to. He won a Tour event as a junior in college and basically in Tucson, where I went to school. So we all watched it. It was quite amazing.

He turned pro and immediately started winning on the PGA Tour. He's been kind of the dominant player of my age group, Tiger is about six years younger. So he's the guy we've always kind of always compared ourselves to. We've become a lot better friends as the years have gone by. Our wives are very good friends. I like spending time with him. It's an interesting match-up. In this field of 64 I have a lot of good friends and I've had to play against a number of them. It's interesting. You put that aside and we'll go out and compete and have a good time.

Q. Do you remember the first time you played him or first time you beat him?
JIM FURYK: You know, I guess the junior golf is probably hard to remember. I remember a lot of the matchups, Arizona versus Arizona State. I had a teammate that we were playing, you've all heard the story, the teammate was, I think it was Manny Zerman was playing him, is on the 18th at The Woodlands. Phil drives it right down the middle, it's been raining like crazy in Houston. He has a giant hunk of mud on his ball. He's trying to get relief for casual water because he wants to wipe that ball off and Manny is not about to give him the casual relieve. He's pumping his feet, and you've got to stand still. So they're trying to give him a ruling, and Manny is up not going to give him the ruling. And the pin is sitting over there behind the water and the mud is on the outside of the ball, so it's going to -- for him it's going to hook towards that water. He aims one that's got to be 50 yards out to the left and hooks this giant hook and rolls it in tight for two feet. And my coach basically looked at me, and said, "Quit pissing him off and just give him a drop the next time," just joking around.

We played, whoever had him, like my sophomore year, I played a lot with Phil. Manny played a lot against him, and Harry Rudolph played a lot against him from La Jolla. And every day someone would have a Phil story of "You would not believe the crap he tried to do today." Skipping one over the water or a shot that he hit. There was always Phil stories, and stuff that he was able to envision and see and pull off, or sometimes not pull off, to be honest with you. There was always Phil stories back then about being aggressive. Still is.

JOHN BUSH: Thank you. Best of luck this week.

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